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The Immunology Unit researches the human host immune response to infectious diseases of high prevalence in Cambodia. Our mission is to provide insight into both the innate and adaptive immune response to various viral infections for novel vaccine and therapeutics design. We aim to improve vaccination strategies for vaccine-preventable diseases and identify novel biomarkers of severity or treatment response.



The Immunology Unit researches the human host immune response to infectious diseases of high prevalence in Cambodia. Our mission is to provide insight into both the innate and adaptive immune response to various viral infections for novel vaccine and therapeutics design. We aim to improve vaccination strategies for vaccine-preventable diseases and identify novel biomarkers of severity or treatment response.

Main Projects

Understanding protective immune mechanisms in asymptomatic dengue-infected individuals

Dengue is caused by dengue virus (DENV), a virus which can be transmitted by Aedes mosquitos. Vaccine development for the prevention of dengue infection is challenging because there are 4 different serotypes of dengue and an individual can be infected consecutively with different serotypes. Clinical outcome after infection range from asymptomatic infection to life threatening dengue shock syndrome. The immunopathology of the disease remains largely unknown and there are no biomarkers that can either predict severe outcome after infection or immunoprotection after natural infection or vaccination. We employ single cell technologies and cell based assays to unravel both the innate and adaptive immune response after secondary dengue infection in a unique cohort of acute, asymptomatic dengue infected individuals and hospitalized cases. The proposed work will provide ground-breaking insights into host protective mechanisms during dengue virus infection. The results will establish a foundation for the development of new vaccination strategies and will identify novel correlates of protection to be used in vaccine efficacy studies.

Immunopathology of chronic chikungunya infection

Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is a reemerging human arbovirus that has seen a rapid global spread in the two past decades. Infection typically involves two phases, with an acute phase where patients develop fever and arthralgia. In 20-40% of the cases, arthralgia is persistent and evolves in a chronic disease. The drivers of chronicity are unknown. In addition, a new CHIKV genotype has been circulating in Cambodia in 2020 with unknown clinical outcome. Therefore, we aim to evaluate clinical outcome in children, adults and pregnant woman infected with the new CHIKV strain. We will perform a detailed immunoprofiling of CHIKV infection in the acute phase of disease, including scRNAseq, multi-parameter flow cytometry, antibody effector functions and type I IFN assessment. This will help us to understand the immunological responses during the acute phase of disease that could lead to chronic pathology after CHIKV infection and to identify a possible novel biomarker for future case management.

Investigation of skin immunity to Aedes mosquito saliva

Both chikungunya and dengue virus are transmitted by Aedes mosquitos. In addition to factors to facilitate a bloodmeal, mosquito saliva also contains proteins that modulate both innate and adaptive immune responses. Little is known about skin immunity to mosquito saliva, particularly in endemic volunteers. Hence, characterization of the immune responses to vector saliva and arboviral pathogens will be important in order to identify critical aspects of the innate and adaptive immune responses after an infected vector bite. In this proposal, we will focus on the interplay between dengue and chikungunya virus, arboviruses highly endemic in Cambodia, its vectors Aedes Aegypti and Aedes Albopictus, and the human skin immune environment. This work can lead to the development of alternative vaccine strategies based on the interaction between host, virus and vector.

Immune responses in HIV/TB infected patients

Tuberculosis (TB) is one of the most common opportunistic infections among HIV-infected patients especially in resource-limited countries such as Cambodia. The diagnosis of pulmonary TB currently relies on sputum smears microscopy, which has poor sensitivity. Additional tools are urgently needed not only to help diagnose TB but also to assess the response to TB treatment. In a previous study, we found that IL-1Ra plasma concentrations dropped dramatically after two months of TB treatment. The objective of this proof-of-concept study is to demonstrate that IL-1Ra concentrations significantly decrease earlier within two weeks following TB treatment initiation in adults with documented TB. Two other biomarkers IP-10 and sCD163 will also be evaluated in this study. We demonstrated in previous study that the degranulation capacity of NK cell plays a role in the pathogenesis of immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS) in tuberculosis and HIV co-infection. The prevention of IRIS is the main challenge of early antiretroviral therapy. However, up to today no laboratory test can be used to diagnose and/or predict the occurrence of IRIS. This study aims to validate blood based microRNA detection by flow cytometry as laboratory tool for prediction and/or prognosis of the clinical outcome of tuberculosis in HIV infected patients and to elucidate the fundamental mechanism of IRIS. 



Analysis of adaptive immune responses to SARS-CoV-2

The duration of immunity of SARS-CoV-2 will dictate the course of the COVID-19 pandemic and the post-pandemic dynamics. Hence, understanding factors influencing the kinetics and the quality of the memory immune response in different populations is crucial. Therefore, we are following a cohort of Cambodian laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patients over time to evaluate the emergence and persistence of the memory immune response. T cell response to various SARS-CoV-2 proteins are evaluated, and Spike-specific memory B cells are quantified and their BCR is sequenced. We are evaluating the humoral immune response in depth, by analyzing cross-reacitivty between SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses and by evaluating antibody-effector functions trough cell based assays. 



Consortia and Platforms:

Pasteur International Center for Research on Emerging Infectious Diseases (PICREID): 

We participate in the NIH-funded CREID network with studies focused on understanding the host adaptive immune response to emerging infectious diseases in South-East Asia with a particular focus on arboviruses. With a cluster investigation approach, we are identifying a set of Cambodian childeren that are undergoing acute arbovirus infection but are completely healthy before and during a 10-day follow up period. In addition, we are collecting well characterized patient samples from major pediatric hospitals in Kampong Thom Province. This longitudinal patient cohort provides us with a unique opportunity to study the immune responses initiated after arbovirus infection that provide protection from disease, but clear the virus.


Single Cell analysis Platform:

The laboratory is equipped with a new installed Biosafety level 2+ laboratory dedicated to work with human infectious samples. A BD FACSAriaTM Fusion cell sorter (4 laser, 18 color) has been installed in 2020. Moreover, the lab is equipped with a 10x Chromium Controller to perform scRNAseq experiments, and we have the capacity to produce monoclonal antibodies derived from plasmablasts/memory B cells of virus-infected patients. 

Recent Publications

Antibody fucosylation predicts disease severity in secondary dengue infection. Stylianos Bournazos, Hoa Thi My Vo, Veasna Duong, Heidi Auerswald, Sowath Ly, Anavaj Sakuntabhai, Philippe Dussart, Tineke Cantaert, Jeffrey V. Ravetch, Science, 04 Jun 2021


Direct Infection of B Cells by Dengue Virus Modulates B Cell Responses in a Cambodian Pediatric Cohort. Vinit Upasani, Hoa Thi My Vo, Heidi Auerswald, Denis Laurent, Sothy Heng, Veasna Duong, Izabela A. Rodenhuis-Zybert, Philippe Dussart, and Tineke Cantaert, Frontiers in Immunology, 12 Feb 2021


Autoantibody Profiling in Plasma of Dengue Virus-Infected Individuals. Hoa Thi My Vo, Veasna Duong, Sowath Ly, Quan-Zhen Li, Philippe Dussart, Tineke Cantaert. Pathogens, 18 Dec 2020


Decreased Type I Interferon Production by Plasmacytoid Dendritic Cells Contributes to Severe Dengue. Vinit Upasani, Carolina Scagnolari, Federica Frasca , Nikaïa Smith, Vincent Bondet, Axelle Vanderlinden, Sokchea Lay, Heidi Auerswald, Sothy Heng, Denis Laurent, Sowath Ly, Veasna Duong, Guido Antonelli, Philippe Dussart , Darragh Duffy, Tineke Cantaert, Frontiers in Immunology, 17 Dec 2020

Previous Publications

TLR2 on blood monocytes senses dengue virusinfection and its expression correlates with diseasepathogenesis  José A. Aguilar-Briseño, Vinit Upasani, Bram M. ter Ellen, Jill Moser, Mindaugas Pauzuolis, Mariana Ruiz-Silva, Sothy Heng, Denis Laurent, Rithy Choeung, Philippe Dussart, Tineke Cantaert, Jolanda M. Smit & Izabela A. Rodenhuis-Zybert, Nature Communication, 25 Jun 2020,



Impaired Antibody-Independent Immune Response of B Cells in Patients With Acute Dengue Infection  Vinit Upasani, Hoa Thi My Vo, Sivlin Ung, Sothy Heng, Denis Laurent, Rithy Choeung, Veasna Duong, Sopheak Sorn, Sowath Ly, Izabela A. Rodenhuis-Zybert, Philippe Dussart, Tineke Cantaert, Frontiers in Immunology, 31 Oct 2019


A 1-week intradermal dose-sparing regimen for rabies post-exposure prophylaxis (RESIST-2): an observational cohort study Cantaert T,  Borand L, Kergoat L, Leng C, Ung S, In S, Peng Y, Phoeun C, Hing C, Taing CN, Saman M, Ong S, Mey C, Choeung R, Ly S, Dussart P, Bourhy H, Tarantola A, The Lancet Infectious Diseases, 01 Dec 2019


High Activation of γδ T Cells and the γδ2pos T-Cell Subset Is Associated With the Onset of Tuberculosis-Associated Immune Reconstitution Inflammatory Syndrome, ANRS 12153 CAPRI NK  Polidy Pean, Janin Nouhin, Meng Ratana, Yoann Madec, Laurence Borand, Olivier Marcy, Didier Laureillard, Marcelo Fernandez, Françoise Barré-Sinoussi, Laurence Weiss & Daniel Scott-Algara, Frontiers in Immunology, 27 Aug 209


A Treatment-Decision Score for HIV-Infected Children With Suspected Tuberculosis Marcy O, Borand L, Ung V, Msellati P, Tejiokem M, Huu KT, Do Chau V, Ngoc Tran D, Ateba-Ndongo F, Tetang-Ndiang S, Nacro B, Sanogo B, Neou L, Goyet S, Dim B, Pean P, Quillet C, Fournier I, Berteloot L, Carcelain G, Godreuil S, Blanche S, Delacourt C; ANRS 12229 PAANTHER 01 STUDY GROUP, Pediatrics, 27 Aug 2019

Host genetic control of mosquito-borne Flavivirus infections : Mammalian genome, 2018Aug25, Manet C / Roth C / Tawfik A / Cantaert T / Sakuntabhai A / Montagutelli X.

A Blood RNA Signature Detecting Severe Disease in Young Dengue Patients at Hospital Arrival : The Journal of infectious diseases, 2018Feb27, Nikolayeva I / Bost P / Casademont I / Duong V / Koeth F / Prot / M / Czerwinska U / Ly S / Bleakley K / Cantaert T / Dussart P / Buchy P / Simon-Lorière E / Sakuntabhai A / Schwikowski B.



Increased adaptive immune responses and proper feedback regulation protect against clinical dengue : Sci Transl Med, 2017Aug30, Simon-Lorière E / Duong V / Tawfik A / Ung S / Ly S / Casadémont I / Prot M / Courtejoie N / Bleakley K / Buchy P / Tarantola A / Dussart P / Cantaert T / Sakuntabhai A


A prospective, comparative study of severe neurological and uncomplicated hand, foot and mouth forms of paediatric enterovirus 71 infections : Int J Infect Dis, 2017Jun04, Crabol Y / Pean P / Mey C / Duong V / Richner B / Laurent D / Santy K / Sothy H / Dussart P / Tarantola A / Buchy P / Horwood PF


Interleukin-1 receptor antagonist, a biomarker of response to anti-TB treatment in HIV/TB co-infected patients : J Infect, 2017Feb09, Nouhin J / Pean P / Madec Y / Chevalier MF / Didier C / Borand L / Blanc FX / Scott-Algara D / Laureillard D / Weiss L

Necrotic Tuberculin Skin (Mantoux) Test Reaction: A Case Report and an Estimation of FrequencyBunnet D, Kerleguer A, Kim P, Pean P, Phuong V, Heng N, Peng Y, Borand L, Tarantola A.  Chest 2015, 148(1):e1-4.


TB-IRIS, T-Cell Activation, and Remodeling of the T-Cell Compartment in Highly Immunosuppressed Hiv-Infected Patients with TB. Haridas, V., P. Pean, L. D. Jasenosky, Y. Madec, D. Laureillard, T. Sok, S. Sath, L. Borand, O. Marcy, S. Chan, E. Tsitsikov, J. F. Delfraissy, F. X. Blanc, A. E. Goldfeld and Capri- T. Study Team AIDS. 2015 Jan 28;29(3):263-73. doi: 10.1097/QAD.0000000000000546.


Natural killer cell degranulation capacity predicts early onset of the immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS) in HIV-infected patients with tuberculosis. Pean P, Nerrienet E, Madec Y, Borand L, Laureillard D, Fernandez M, Marcy O, Sarin C, Phon K, Taylor S, Pancino G, Barré-Sinoussi F, Scott-Algara D; Cambodian Early versus Late Introduction of Antiretroviral Drugs (CAMELIA) study team. Blood. 2012 Apr 5;119(14):3315-20.


Virologic and immunologic outcomes in HIV-infected Cambodian children after 18 months of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) 2010. Sophan S, Meng CY, Pean P, Harwell J, Hutton E, Trzmielina S, Somasundaran M, Luzuriaga K, Pugatch D.  Southeast Asian J Trop Med Public Health. 2010 Jan;41(1):126-37.